I used to hate editing papers in college.
I suspect that one of the reasons why I became an English teacher and tutor was that it allowed me to become so familiar with grammar and structure that I could write well enough my first go. The word “draft” was taboo to me.
I’d write papers ten pages or longer the morning they were due and not give them a second look. It just made my skin crawl to look over my work again.
Thankfully, since I’ve started writing my novel, I’ve slowly developed a fondness for editing. I’m not in love with it yet, but the frigid relationship editing and I had before is thawing to the point that I’ll revise a chapter a few times over before moving on.
What recently reinforced my admiration for editing is an unlikely source: The Declaration of Independence.
I hadn’t skimmed through my personal library in months–my Kindle has kept me busy–but three days ago one of my college texts caught my eye. It was from a constitutional law class I once took, and the text dealt with The Declaration of Independence, the context in which it was written, and the influences on the document’s writing.
What does this have to do with editing? Well, the text not only included the finished version of the Declaration but also Jefferson’s draft.
You’ve got to see this thing.
The draft is by no means terrible; it just had a very different feel to it because of what Jefferson had originally included. For example, Jefferson originally wrote an entire paragraph denouncing King George III for taking part in the slave trade, what Jefferson called “execrable commerce” and an “assemblage of horrors.” This sentiment is nowhere to be found in the final Declaration.
Along with the omissions above, many phrases were cut or rephrased for clarity.
So that got me thinking: if one of the most important documents in American and world history had to be edited a few times, why not my novel? If even the founding fathers, which many people hold in mystical regard, found a better way to express their grievances before they signed the Declaration, why can’t I? And these guys were excellent writers!
So, the next time you feel a bit bummed by having to edit and revise your work in progress, remember: even a document as important as the Declaration needed editing. 🙂
How do you feel about editing? Do you avoid it like the plague or jump right in?